A wise article about church evaluation

One of the difficult things church leaders must do is evaluate how the local church is doing.   It is not as easy as it sounds and our tendency as leaders is to fall off on either side of the middle path; either by emphasizing quantity at the expense of  discipleship or by emphasizing quality at the expense of outreach.    Here is a wise article that will help us to keep a balance.

http://www.churchleadership.com/leadingideas/leaddocs/2015/150128_article.html

 

New threats to religious freedom

I can’t believe that a city in the US would try to force ministers of the gospel to act contrary to their consciences in their practice of Christian ministry.  Yet that is exactly what is happening in the case of this couple from Idaho.

http://www.adfmedia.org/News/PRDetail/9364

The radical homosexual lobby will not stop at being allowed to do their own thing.  They also insist on forcing everyone else to agree with them which violates the right of others to disagree with their opinions and agenda.  I pray that the courts will uphold the first amendment rights of these ministers of the gospel on behalf of all of us.

If you think this is an  isolated case, think about the mayor of Houston who recently attempted to subpoena pastors’ sermons in her city to see what they were saying about her agenda.  Talk about government overreach!!   This was another attempt to violate first amendment rights.  She quickly realized that the move was political suicide and withdrew it.

One of the great things about our country is religious freedom.  Right now, this means that ministers in denominations which believe homosexual marriage is okay should be able to do such ceremonies if they also feel it is right.   But if religious freedom means anything at all, it means that ministers in groups that hold to traditional views that homosexual marriage is not in accord with Scriptural teaching, and ministers who individually feel the same way, cannot be forced to officiate at such unions.    It is their right in the United States of America to perform only those ceremonies that they feel comfortable in conscience to perform.

 

 

 

 

 

Nursing home visitation will be rewarded as a ministry to the least of these

A friend, Phil, in Kirkville wrote me that he was joining a ministry of nursing home visitation.  I thought my comments to him, might be of encouragement to others too.  So here they are as a post.

May God bless you in your new ministry venture, Phil, and all like you who minister in nursing homes.  It is a ministry of love just to talk to isolated people there.   I served as a chaplain in one during my seminary days so I know from experience how lonely some people are and how difficult others are to communicate with.  The first job of the visitor is just to show love by being present and caring about the person genuinely.   Most people they see are there to do a job.  Then, after you have listened to them, by listening to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, you will find openings to talk about your own journey of faith and that will open doors to talk about their spiritual journey or spiritual emptiness too.  Offering to read Scripture or pray for them or for loved ones if they would like often provides openings too.

Nursing home visitation definitely fits in with the ministries Jesus was talking about in Mt 25:37-40 NIV.    It might not be mentioned but it has the same characteristics.    37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

A Personal Testimony

While I usually file my sermons in the sermon section, I decided to include this one here for two reasons.  First, because it is my first sermon at Copper Hill UMC.   Second, because it is very informative about me personally and will be a great addition to the Who Am I section of my blog.

First sermon at Copper Hill UMC

Intro

As I thought about how to begin this morning, I decided that there was not a better way than to introduce myself by giving my testimony—the story of my own Christian journey.  

Telling the story of God’s action in our lives is a Biblically recommended practice anyway, isn’t it.   In the passage Judy read, the servant of Abraham tells of God’s activity in helping him to be successful in finding a wife for Isaac.   In a sense, much of Holy Scripture is the inspired testimony of God’s action among his people, recorded for us to read and profit from later.  In the book of Revelation, in the verses that I read, John tells us that one of the weapons of the Christian church – one of the means that it can use to overcome the enemy of our souls is testimony – reciting to one another the work of God in our lives.  Testimony has several benefits.  Telling others what God has done has a way of confirming it for us too.   Testimony encourages and inspires others as well.  When one person testifies, it helps us to understand how God works and what he can do in our own lives too.  

My prayer is that this abbreviated story of my Christian journey will not only help you get to know me but also inspire and encourage your own Christian walk. 

A Christian beginning

Object: a family farm needlework or picture of my extended family

A Christian home

My journey began in on a family farm in rural Western NY.  I had the privilege of being born into a Christian family.  On Sundays, not only both my parents, but all four of my grandparents would be at our church.  I was told that I first accepted Jesus into my heart at age 6 kneeling in the living room next to my mom.  

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Hospitality to God’s Word at six

Key verse:  “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Jn. 1:11-12 ESV

It was an important beginning of giving hospitality to God’s word, God’s work and God’s Spirit in my life.  The Bible teaches us that each of us has an opportunity to do that.  The bible is using a hospitality metaphor.   As when someone comes to the door of our home, we can either let them in our shut the door, so it is with God’s teaching in our lives.   The Bible teaches that God I as one standing at the door of our hearts and knocking.  If we will give Him entrance he will come in (Rev. 3:20).  

Growing in faith in a small church like this one

Object: Haskinville plate

Childhood Sunday school

The church I grew up in was a lot like this one.  Continue reading “A Personal Testimony”

Busy weeks: Are they related to a late Easter?

sunny spring flowersIt seems like the weeks since Easter have been unusually busy for me.  How about you? I’m wondering how much of this is related to the late date of Easter?  Easter was about as late as it can possibly get this year.  For one thing, Mothers Day and college graduation season fell only two weeks after Easter, a potentially stressful conjunction of big events.  At Community Wesleyan, global partners (missions) emphasis which usually fits comfortably between Easter and Mother’s Day, now was shoehorned into an already busy May as well.   

My parents and grandparents, passing down the wisdom of generations of farm families, had a saying that if Easter was late, spring would also be late. That certainly has been truly here in Syracuse this year. As a gardner, this has also added to the busyness of late April and early May. Tilling that was done in mid-April in past years could not be done until the first May. Lettuce, radishes, spinach, and peas have often been planted in April but this year are being planted in May.   At least we didn’t start mowing the lawn until the first week in May.

As I reflect on it, a late Easter was nice for having crocuses and tulips out to adorn the season.  I also enjoyed the longer winter sermon series it allowed.  But I’m not sure I like the time crunch that has followed. I still think the ideal time for Easter celebration is the second Sunday in April.  But since it’s not up to you and me anyway, I guess we’ll just have to take it as it comes and remember that God’s grace is sufficient for everyday!   Sometimes I need to be reminded of my favorite verse, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Co 9:8 NIV).  

Lenten & Easter Message Series Depends on the Wind

Very Windy

What comes to your mind when you think of wind? I think most of us have many associations as wind is a big part of our lives.  One association for me centers around a childhood memory.  My bedroom as a boy was on the West side of our house and the cold winter winds whistled in the window.   Here in Kirkville, I often think of my neighbor’s cheery wind chimes blowing in the breeze.   Sometimes I think of the warm southern breezes that bring warming temperatures and birds flying in from the south in the spring.  Today wind is in the news often as a power generation source.  March is the month most associated with wind. 

 

Exploring the Bible’s use of wind images will be exciting.

This year at Community Wesleyan during March and April, we plan to explore the Biblical imagery of wind.    Three of the most defining Biblical passages for understanding how the Bible uses the idea of wind to teach us are the creation story, the prophecy of Ezekiel over the dry bones and the event of Pentecost.  Because of Pentecost we cannot help but associate wind and God’s Spirit.   These three Bible passages will play a big part in this series.  

Blessings to Peter and Susan Moon and Family as They Lead at Chambers Camp

Chambers Camp - a fun place, a sacred place

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:2-3 NIV).

What exciting news to learn that Peter Moon, one of our members, has been tapped as the new Camp Manager for Chambers Wesleyan Camp and Conference Center.   Peter will be responsible for maintenance and promotion of the camp and will play a role in planning as well.   Peter is taking a big cut in pay but believes that it is more than made up for by the tremendous incentive of working full-time for a higher purpose.   He feels called to this ministry.   The family will be relocating to Chambers very soon. 

Of course, this causes a tinge of sadness for us as we will miss seeing the Moon’s as often, enjoying their laughter and friendship, and we will miss their many and varied contributions to the ministry here as well.   But in another sense, we can think of it as an honor when God chooses those from our church family to press into service in his wider vineyard.   It means the Lord of the Harvest has trusted us to disciple, encourage and prepare servants for his work, just as he used the church at Antioch to prepare Barnabas and Saul.   That is an affirmation to the ministry of our church.   Now it is up to us to take the next step too, which we began to do this past Sunday; that step is to pray for them, and send them off with blessing even as the church of Antioch did.

Answering a call for clergy leadership

 

Letter writer, David C. Ashley, in today’s Post Standard opinion page decried a lack of obvious clergy leadership in changing the climate of political discourse in our country.   I have good news for him.   Just such a leadership move has been in the works for awhile and at this crucial time has just begun to be publicized http://www.christianpost.com/article/20100326/conservative-liberal-christians-vow-to-model-civility/.  

This initiative is authored and signed by many prominent clergy of various denominational backgrounds.  It is called A Covenant for Civility: Come Let Us Reason Together.    It is inspiring to read and is very Biblically based.  If implemented, it would bring the Golden Rule back to American politics, something we haven’t seen since politicians discovered that slander via advertising works in election campaigns.    I have personally joined those signing this important document and encourage others to do so.  I found a signable copy and list of many of the chief signers at http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=action.display&item=100308-civility-covenant.    I intend to honor it (I hope I already have been) as I blog and as I preach.